Every June we celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month locally and nationally. It is a time for people across the United States to explore their own heritage and #CelebrateImmigrants and the diversity that forms the unique American experience. For Philadelphia, it is also a time to celebrate all that is beautiful and vibrant about being a welcoming city and celebrating our local diversity and culture in all its shapes and forms.
There is no doubt that this last year of the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on all of us and it has had profound and disproportionate impacts on marginalized communities. Black, brown, and other people of color have faced the highest infection, hospitalization, and death rates and continue to financially struggle due to the economic impacts of the pandemic. This has been a year full of immense loss: lost work and businesses lost in-person time with people we care about, loss of normal customs and gatherings, and of course even loss of so many lives of loved ones due to the COVID-19 virus.
Sometimes it is hard to celebrate amidst so much loss and grieving. However, 15 months since the local stay-at-home order, the Office of Immigrant Affairs and the City of Philadelphia has witnessed so much resilience and pivoting led by our local residents and for that, we choose to celebrate. In 2021, the City chooses to recommit to our values and our commitment to the community. This administration has stood with Philadelphia’s local immigrant communities for the last five years and we will continue to stand with our local communities into the future in big and small ways. We see you and celebrate you.
In this last year, we’ve seen the resilience of our local immigrant leaders and organizations and the ways they have stood up and shown up not just for their own communities but also for the greater Philadelphia region. This June we celebrate community, family, food, and love and lift up the stories about the ways our local residents and leaders have demonstrated this in the midst of great grief and loss:
- Brazilian mothers in the northeast utilizing their personal funds to purchase and assemble food boxes and deliver them to families who could not leave their homes to pick up boxes at the various food distribution sites.
- Mental health organizations such as La Puerta Abierta, that pivoted to meet their community’s needs by offering food delivery and so much more.
- Non-profit organizations that newly launched or adjusted their operations to support their members such as the Association of Mexican Business Owners in Philadelphia and SEAMAAC who supported immigrant business owners and fundraised to support them because we know that for many immigrant small businesses, it’s not just about the business, it’s about entrepreneurship and self-employment, a way to provide for their families.
- Immigrant relief funds launched by organizations such as the New Sanctuary Movement, Nationalities Services Center, and HIAS PA and how these and other mutual aid efforts inspired the City’s launch of the Philadelphia Worker Relief Fund.
- The formation of the Philadelphia Area Immigrant Collective Action to deepen the coalition-building among diverse immigrant communities across the city and advocating with a more unified voice.
- Case managers at AFAHO and Bilingual Counseling Assistants in the School District of Philadelphia who personally went to people’s homes to make sure they had what they needed to ensure families were able to connect to virtual schooling.
- Black and AAPI leaders standing in solidarity shouting Black Lives Matter and Stop AAPI hate.
- The Mayor’s Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs engaging deeply with immigrant leaders in Southwest Philly and across the city mobilizing to boldly advocate for the needs of Black immigrants locally and nationally.
- Leaders in the Latino community self-organized a Latino Health Collective composed of individuals within the nonprofit and university communities for timely information and resource sharing and review of the trends and data impacting the local Latino community, documenting the community’s COVID-19 experience.
Community members of varying statuses of immigration, whether new immigrants or second or third generation have shown up for their Philadelphia community, have stood up for immigrants and so many in our region. And for that, the City of Philadelphia celebrates you, the way you stand for community, for family, and show up with food and love. This June we celebrate you and the City’s unwavering commitment to being a welcoming place that celebrates its vibrant immigrant community.